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“It’s blatantly sexualising the sport,” she says, sipping green tea in the café of her local fitness centre while kids tear around the crèche behind her.
“The way the women pose, sticking their bums out and spending more time with their backs to the judges than their fronts – I find it quite embarrassing, to be honest.
In doing so, they seemed to be helping close the casket on bulkier, less conventionally feminine classes, as seen in the eighties heyday, which culminated in the 1985 release Pumping Iron II: The Women, a film that turned female bodybuilders like Bev Francis and Rachel Mc Lish into poster stars for the Walkman generation. Female events both in the UK and beyond have been struggling to pull in competitors, especially in heavier classes, as though the fashion for slimline models had finally convinced the world that bulking up was for men, and a woman’s job was to stand around smiling and looking thin.Hollie’s own figure category – itself once seen as a threat to the larger divisions – might pull in around ten competitors, its blanket ban on artificial enhancements allowing for muscularity that doesn’t negate conventional prettiness.Yet the figure category, like the associated ‘body fitness’ discipline, demands hard graft – Hollie diets as intensely as her heavyweight peers, and puts in the same amount of hours down the gym, all the more impressive given that she’s now pregnant with her third child.With the introduction of the new ‘bikini class’, a sport that formerly stood as a paradigm of a woman’s ability to compete alongside men has been moved a step closer to being one in which women use their sexuality as a weapon, and men show their appreciation by wolf-whistling from the stands.
It’s a move that repulses Hollie Walcott, sister of England footballer Theo and rising star of the more feminine, all natural ‘figure’ category.
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